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'He has to go on the tour' - England centre not included in Lions has made Jason Robinson's Test XV

By Ian Cameron
England's Jason Robinson breaks the diving tackle of Wales' Gethin Jenkins during the 2003 Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Brisbane (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

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Former British and Irish Lions tour veteran in 2001 and 2005, Jason Robinson, has made a bold call by selecting a player that didn’t even make Warren Gatland’s 37-man squad for the tour of South Africa in his starting XV.

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Injured England centre Manu Tuilagi is yet to make his return for Sale Sharks after injuring himself last September, but Robinson is still backing his inclusion. Writing in his column in the Daily Express, Robinson says the Lions need the fear factor that Tuilagi brings.

“Think of the one player South Africa would not want running at them this summer and it is Tuilagi. He is close to a comeback for Sale after his torn Achilles and by the time the series starts he should be purring.

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“He has to go on the tour.”

It’s a view shared by Sale Sharks Director of Rugby, Alex Sanderson.

“Yeah I would (take him) if I was picking it,”  Sanderson said recently. “Manu (Tuilagi) understands more than most how to come back from an injury because he has had more than most.

“I think he wants to come back and be brilliant again, I do and if I could back anyone to come back and be at their best, I’d back him.”

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Code hopping winger Robinson has also backed Welsh wunderkind Louis Rees-Zammit to perform in South Africa.

“He has the pace to go the distance on the hard grounds of South Africa. He has only played a handful of Wales tests but a rookie can make a big impact on a Lions tour. I guess I should know,” Robinson wrote.

Robinson also said Gatland was right not to make Maro Itoje captain.

“I know Maro Itoje has been talked about for the job in some quarters but to lead the Lions you need to be a captain of your national side or at least your club and Itoje is neither so just let him do what he does best and play.

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“It isn’t as if Jones will be short on leadership back-up with Stuart Hogg and Owen Farrell – both national captains – on the trip.”

JASON ROBINSON’S LION XV:
15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
14. Anthony Watson (England)
13. Manu Tuilagi (England)
12. Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
11. Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales)
10. Owen Farrell (England)
9. Conor Murray(Ireland)
8. Taulupe Faletau (Wales)
7. Hamish Watson (Scotland)
6. Tom Curry (England)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
4. Maro Itoje (England)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
2. Jamie George (England)
1. Mako Vunipola (England)

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'He has to go on the tour' - England centre not included in Lions has made Jason Robinson's Test XV

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